Qualitative Analysis of Legal Expert Interviews

A variety of essential findings focused on engagement were uncovered through interviews with a mix of legal experts including judges, attorneys, child advocates and judicial officers. The major finding from the interviews was a unanimous consensus that meaningful engagement with children and youth was essential for successful hearings and outcomes.

Engagement is a broad term that encompasses elements such as communication skills, cultural consciousness, and environment among other factors. Many significant aspects of engagement in this setting were discussed in detail during the interviews. Some of the key highlights include early engagement and rapport building as well as engaging across culture and identity.

Early Engagement and Rapport Building

Legal professionals highlighted the need for more in person meetings with youth to focus on their case early on. The fundamental idea of meeting clients “where they are” was also expressed by many interviewees as well as needing the time to build rapport with children and youth in order to facilitate honest and authentic conversations and to build relationships over time.

With respect to rapport building, professionals emphasized the need to prepare children and youth for court, and that part of the preparation is working to make sure that children and youth understand what is going on and coaching them to participate as self-advocates.

Engaging Across Culture and Identity

Interviewees expressed challenges of working across racial and gender differences. The specific need for Spanish fluency was identified by some. Others expressed concern specifically with gender identity and ensuring the safety and engagement of children and youth who identify as LGBTQ.

The full analysis of interviews with legal professionals offers abundant information and specific actions professionals can take right now to enhance their important work and create solutions to problem areas that hinder progress. Empowering children and youth in legal proceedings will take a combined approach of interpersonal skills and structural changes. Ultimately, engagement leads to strong relationships and within these strong relationships, professionals can best serve children and youth. Read on for concrete steps that can be taken to support children and youth in legal proceedings as a vital aspect in constructing permanency plans that are safe, stable, and promote strength and resiliency.

Related Expert Interviews

All of the expert interviews within QIC-EY’s Environmental Scan help to uncover current efforts by an array of diverse child welfare professionals to authentically engage children and youth in permanency planning as well as to identify any barriers that might get in the way. Each report helps to put a sharper focus on the importance of engagement as well as the challenges and opportunities facing professionals today.  Reading through these reports as individuals or as a team can help to validate what might be happening for professionals and offer inspiration for how the work of youth engagement can continue to improve over time.

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